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Welcome to a new semester!

Published: 17 August 2021

A new semester will soon start and I am looking forward to welcoming our new students to our university, although the welcome will be digitally mediated.

I am also looking forward to seeing our four campuses gradually become crowded by students and staff in autumn and winter.Regnbågsallén and Vintergatan have begun to take shape and it is a pleasure to see how the external environment at our campus in Luleå slowly but steadily takes on a different shape creating an attractive and welcoming environment for anyone studying, working or visiting our University.

A fruitful beginning of the semester

Last week, many of us started to work again after our holiday and I hope that you, like me, have had a long and really pleasant time off and are ready for autumn’s and winter’s various tasks and activities. For me and the members of the Vice-Chancellor’s strategic council, last week offered an inspiring and very fruitful beginning of the semester with a two-day start-up meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday.

At the start-up meeting, we focused on skills supply, the education and teaching of the future, and on who our future students will be. In these discussions, the Strategy day in May, with its focus on how our research and education can contribute to the big development projects in Norrbotten and Västerbotten, constituted a ground for us as we looked forward. The annual report written by the Swedish Higher Education Authority and the national trends within the higher education sector that they have identified were important input into our discussions.

Students over 25 has increased markedly

The annual report by the Swedish Higher Education Authority was important for our discussions. Among other things, the report shows that the age of people applying for university studies are increaing. In 2017, Sweden had the highest average age among new students studying at Bachelor’s programmes (24.8 years) compared to OECD-average, but also compared to the Nordic countries and many countries in the EU, for example Germany and the Netherlands. In a national perspective, the number of students over 25 has increased markedly since 2015 and we see a significant increase this year too. For example, the proportion of students over 35 has increased with almost 14% in Sweden and with almost 20% at our University.

We also see an increase, nationally, of the proportion of distance students. This trend started already in 2017, and in 2019 the distance students constituted one fifth of all students at our universities. This year we see a national increase of 6.7% and an increase of 36% at Luleå University of Technology. The large increase depends on, among other things, the fact that the number of distance-based study programmes has increased. We offer, for example, three distance-based study programmes: International business administration, the Engineering foundation year programme and the Pre-School Education study programme.

With focus on lifelong learning

A third trend, which to a certain extent may be related to the fact that our students are getting older, is lifelong learning. Online distance learning, freestanding courses, short study programmes and contract education are perhaps the most common teaching forms that are considered to contribute positively to lifelong learning. The clarifying mission of the higher education institutions as to lifelong learning in combination with the new Employment Protection Act reform including, among other things, new public student finance, strengthen the expectations of external actors on universities and university colleges, and create new opportunities for us to widen the scope of our courses and programmes offered.

Based on these trends and the discussions that we have had, our next step is to clarify the University’s priorities and direction for our education. Education that includes all staff and students in one way or another, with the purpose of raising the quality, power of attraction and relevance of our study programmes and courses.

I am looking forward to continuing discussions for the months to come and warmly welcome you back from your holidays!

Regards Birgitta

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